In a kind of proxy comment, an anonymous contributor passed this reply on, allegedly from Van Damme:
From Lisa VanDamme:Leaving aside the oddness of replying by anonymous proxy - surely it would be easier just to reply directly - this also seems to not answer the issue. Here's what Greg quoted from Van Damme's original essay:
What defines the hierarchical order of concepts is distance from the perceptual level, not "wideness." "Doberman" is, unquestionably, more abstract than "dog": Ayn Rand addresses this issue in ITOE, and nothing I have ever said contradicts it.
Van Damme: "There is a necessary order to the formation of concepts and generalizations. A child cannot form the concept of “organism” until he has first formed the concepts of “plant” and “animal”; he cannot grasp the concept of “animal” until he has first formed concepts such as “dog” and “cat”; and so on. The pedagogical implication of the fact that there is a necessary order to the formation of abstract knowledge is that you must teach concepts and generalizations in their proper order. An abstract idea—whether a concept, generalization, principle, or theory—should never be taught to a child unless he has already grasped those ideas that necessarily precede it in the hierarchy, all the way down to the perceptual level."Greg's point in the post was that if this was true, one would start with "Doberman", go up to "dog", then to "organism" etc. Yet this seems unlikely.
Van Damme and other commenters do not seem to have a direct response to this, and merely reply to the effect that Greg's demonstration is a "straw man" because Rand said otherwise in the ITOE. But if Rand's theory (or Van Damme's expression of it) does not stand up to its own derivable consequences, this is hardly Greg's problem! Rather it speaks to the basic wooliness and what I regard as the outright emptiness of most of the speculations expressed in the ITOE.
At any rate, it would be interesting if Van Damme wished to reply in a bit more detail - even by proxy - to Greg's original post, and we cordially invite her to do so.